Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 09 Hansard (Tuesday, 21 August 2018) . . Page.. 3310 ..
MS CHEYNE: Minister, what other supports are available in the ACT for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families involved with child and youth protection services?
MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Ms Cheyne for her supplementary question. The ACT government is committed to understanding and addressing the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in child protection. The functional family therapy trial is just one of the programs being implemented to address this issue.
The ACT government has also committed $1.44 million over four years in the latest budget for the ongoing delivery of family group conferencing so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families can be supported to make decisions to keep their children safe, strong and connected to family and culture. This process supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural values of family and community responsibility.
From the beginning of the pilot to 8 August 2018, 13 families have been involved in a family group conference, involving 25 children. Eighteen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have not subsequently entered care following a family group conference. Three families, seven children, have entered into the care system subsequent to a family group conference. However, in these cases the children have been placed with kin identified through the conference process.
The new funding provides for the permanent appointment of two facilitators in addition to brokerage costs. These staff are supported and mentored by Curijo Pty Ltd, an Aboriginal-operated organisation with more than 20 years experience working with child protection systems in New South Wales and the ACT.
Functional family therapy and family group conferencing are additional to the existing services that are providing support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, including Uniting’s children and families ACT program and the ACT government’s growing healthy families program run from each of the child and family centres in Gungahlin, Tuggeranong and west Belconnen.
MS ORR: Minister, can you update the Assembly on work to address the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children involved with child protection in the ACT?
MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Ms Orr for her supplementary question. Over-representation is a legacy of the discrimination, disconnection and dislocation from country, culture and family that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been subjected to as a result of past policies and practices.
In the ACT it is a sad fact that 28 per cent of children in out of home care are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. However, those children represent only about three per cent of the population of children in the ACT. This is completely unacceptable, which is why the government established Our Booris, Our Way, a review of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people involved with the child protection system.